One-year anniversary renews call for justice
The anniversary of Jamar Clark’s death was remembered on November 15 on the North Side of Minneapolis with two separate events. The first was the announcement by Nekima Levy Pounds of her intention to run for mayor of Minneapolis.
She stressed that improvements were needed in the criminal justice system and law enforcement. “We cannot allow police officers to engage in the use of excessive force, to criminalize our citizens and allow our system to operate in a broken fashion. It’s a waste of time, talent and resources to have such a broken criminal justice system and system of policing.”
Standing in solidarity with the family of Jamar Clark during her press conference, Levy-Pounds stated that it was a day she would remember for the rest of her life as she declared a paradigm shift in light of Clark’s death that will assist making changes in law enforcement.
“Sadly, in the city of Minneapolis those officers have rarely been held accountable. In fact, our council members and mayor’s office have rubber-stamped allegations of excessive force by settling tens of millions of dollars in lawsuits.”
The second event was a march led by Black Lives Matter in partnership with the Twin Cities Coalition 4 Justice 4 Jamar Clark. The march started at the intersection of Emerson and Broadway Avenues, leading down Freemont and up Plymouth Ave. to the location where Clark was fatally shot by Minneapolis police.
At least 100-150 marched through the streets chanting, “North Side we outside,” “Black Lives they matter here,” and “These racist cops they gotta go.”
After pausing a few moments at a community altar built where Clark was killed, there was a spoken-word performance by the nieces and nephews of Jamar Clark titled, “I am Jamar Clark,” as a first-person monologue: “I deserve to live, why am I not here, and I am a hard-working African American man” were some of the lyrics.
“Jamar’s life was taken by the hands of people who were supposed to serve and protect,” said Johnie Johnson, stepfather of Jamar Clark and husband of Irma Burns, Clark’s mother. “It affected this family deeply… It doesn’t just go away; it’s constant. His mom wakes up crying every night.”
Aztec dancers from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, who are also currently protesting to preserve their land and water from the construction of the North Dakota Access Pipeline, performed a ritual dance in solidarity.
“We were here several times a year ago,” said the leader of the dancers. “It was difficult in many ways; one more aggression was happening again. Today is a day for the spirit, and also a day for us to grow as a community.”
As the Aztec dancers performed, heading down Plymouth Avenue to the altar, the crowd continued chants of “Saint Jamar” and “We will never forget.”
“We have stereotypes about each other, and many times we are too divided,” said the dance leader. “The community is hurting big time because people are calling us criminals. We [Native people] have that in common as being a community viewed as criminals and they forget our humanity.”
Steve Banks, the father of Brandy Banks Sutta, who was killed in November 2013 in North Minneapolis by a speeding driver, was also there in support of the Clark family.
“Everyone has a voice out here,” said Banks. “I want people to know this is not just a bout Jamar Clark, but it is about him. Let’s not forget about what happened to this young man. His life was snatched from him.”
According to police reports, Clark was wrestled to the ground after a confrontation with police. He was allegedly shot after grabbing the gun of Officer Mark Riggenberg.
“They’re indicating he was being rough with the police, but as we all know, we saw everything,” said Banks.
Dustin Schwarze and Mark Riggenberg were cleared in state and federal courts and through an internal investigation by County Attorney Mike Freeman after it was ruled that they acted appropriately during the incident. The two officers are currently working as law enforcement officers, with Riggenberg now working with the robbery unit.
“He [Clark] definitely has his fathers out here,” said Johnson. “He has a biological father, a foster father, and I’m his stepfather. This is a very close-knit family.”
In the words of the nieces and nephews of Clark, “We are Jamar Clark and we matter!”
Ivan B. Phifer welcomes reader comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
More photos from Chris Juhn below.